Saturday, September 23, 2006

24th Saturday in Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Movies, Reviews & Stupid Questions

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49; Psalm 56:10c-12, 13-14; Luke 8:4-15

They are stupid questions. Paul is none too subtle in his response to those who inquire into how dead people are raised, and what sort of body they have. Why does Paul think these questions – which still attract speculation in some quarters even in our day – stupid? And if these are indeed stupid questions why does Paul seem to present a rather lengthy explanation?

Recently I mentioned to someone that I’d gone to watch a movie. He responded by saying that he’d not watched it but had read many reviews, and then launched into an exposition of the things he’d read. Listening to him, it seemed clear that he knew a lot more about the movie than I did. He had even formed a rather firm opinion about the movie based upon what he’d read. Indeed, his sharing helped me to appreciate better several elements in the movie that I’d not paid enough attention to. Still I couldn’t help wondering how much he really knew. How much can one know a movie without having actually experienced it – without having watched the plot unfold from scene to scene, without having listened to the dialogue and the sound effects, without having felt the reactions that are evoked by the interplay of the various elements? Sure, reviews are useful. I read them myself, both before watching a movie – in order to decide which ones are worth a trip to the cinema – and also after – to heighten one’s appreciation of what has been watched. But reviews can’t replace the movie-experience itself can they? And, to be blunt, one would be stupid to think otherwise.

Could these considerations help to explain Paul’s response in the first reading? Are the questions he criticizes stupid because they seek to do the impossible: to fully comprehend the resurrected life without committing oneself to walking the way that leads to it? Is this not similar to reading lots of reviews about a movie without actually watching it? And doesn’t Paul’s apparent explanation highlight the differences that exist between our present experience and what is to come, between the reviews and the movie? The thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is glorious. Paul can only use metaphors to indicate what this glorious future that awaits us might be like.

Isn’t this why the gospel parable is so important? It reminds us that while we cannot yet grasp fully what the next life will be like, it is possible to live so as to prepare ourselves for that life. It is possible even, to some extent, to live that life in the present, to be as open as the good soil to receive the seed of God’s Word into our hearts and lives so as to yield a harvest. Isn’t this the only way that we can gradually come to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God? We need to open our hearts and commit our lives to what has been revealed to us. In the words of the psalmist, we need to walk in the presence of God in the light of the living. We need to watch the movie, even as we may continue to read the reviews.

What is our approach to the mysteries of the kingdom? Which do we prefer: the movie or the reviews?

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